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COBWEB CORNERS: May 1946 - the Springs' first parking meters

By Mel McFarland

May 1, 2018
       May 14, 1946, remember it!
       Why? Well that was the date Colorado Springs started using parking meters! As a newspaper that day said, "Life no longer is the carefree thing it used to be downtown."
       The use of meters was treated on the humorous side, at first. The rules had to be explained to the uneducated locals.
       At first the city installed the meters, then gave the folks a week or so before starting to give out tickets. The meters were on the main streets of downtown, generally between Cascade and Nevada and between Bijou and Cucharras.
       The meters took nickels, dimes and pennies, usually 10 cents for an hour. As one person wrote, “If you see a man running down the street waving a dollar, do not call the police, get him some change!”
       One problem was putting money in the right meter. Parallel parking, which here was rare to start with, created this problem as the designers had not yet come up with two meters on a single pole. Angle parking had its share of "wrong meter" incidents.
       Clerks in stores now had to get change for people's meters and did not like it if you did not plan to spend any money in their store!
       People quickly got used to keeping track of how long shopping was taking. The police had not yet figured out that some people would just stay parked at a meter, continually "plugging" it.
       Some 600 meters were placed at first, and another 800 immediately ordered. The local citizens generally went along with the idea.
       No meters were in Old Colorado City yet.
       The meter time limit ranged from 12 minutes (at banks and the post office) to an hour (farther away from the center of town). It would take several years before more than an hour was allowed.
       I remember seeing the guys who would start at sun-up and go empty the meters. They had a two-wheeled cart with a tall cylinder on it. They would go up to a meter and unlock a door on the back, the coins running into the rig.
       I was told that they tried to finish emptying the meters before 9 a.m. Then they would retreat to a room where they had a coin-counting machine. There was at least one incident where someone tried to hijack the crew collecting the money.
       The machines accumulated an interesting collection of foreign coins and other "slugs." As meters got better, these illegal payments had less effect.
       Canadian coins were generally treated as U.S., once we started having more Canadians in town.
       I also remember the guys who walked the streets with two-wheel carts and push brooms, sweeping the sides of the streets where the cars parked. They did this very early too. Then little by little, the city started buying sweeper trucks.

(Opinion: Cobweb Corners)

       Editor's note: Local historian Mel McFarland has been writing his Cobweb Corners column in the Westside Pioneer since 2004. To see past columns, go to the Pioneer's Archives. Either look for desired articles under the Cobweb Corners category for any year, or search by keywords in the Find box.

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